A Mosh Pit Full of Fist Pumps Episode II

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2015 was such a whirlwind. A blur. A ride. An adventure. A spectacle. A blast. A rollercoaster. A peanut.

Crap, I lost it. Let’s just say, a lot of stuff happened.

In many ways it felt like I was wandering aimlessly on this new writing path. Last I wrote about it, I oh so dramatically outlined my reasons for peace-ing out on journalism (On a scale of 1-10 in breakups, I’d give it a 55. Necessary, sure, but awful as fuck. I enjoyed writing for newspapers for a time but didn’t quite have the temperament for the daily 300-word regurgitation of things you can Google elsewhere. Even as a reader, I much prefer longer narratives and pieces that take months and months to write. But I’d do it all over again, layoff and financial destitution and all. It was like being in a time capsule—a writing bootcamp that future generations won’t get to experience. Suck it, babies).

Unlike the well-worn and fading path of daily newspapering, this new one is much more nebulous.

And in 2015, it showed.

I was all over the place.

Chronologically,

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JAN:

I left a contract job in NYC so I could intern at a cool ad agency in Minneapolis for a couple months. Steeped in great copywriting tradition, this place was like rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of the greats and the rockstars of the current. I also got to see what an agency’s like when it debuts an ad baby on the night of the Holy Grail of admaking—the Super Bowl.

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MARCH:

I got back to New York, probably more unsure than ever of where to go next. Instead of immediately lining up an ad gig, I decided to use my savings to hole up and start drawing. And I kept drawing (more on that later).

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JUNE:

With a couple dozen comic strips under my belt and a revamped portfolio incorporating my doodles, it was time to look for another gig. I soon was faced with two choices: a stable position in Manhattan calling for a very specific skillset or a contract one in Jersey calling for anything and everything that was 1.5 hours by train and train and bus. I took the one in Jersey.

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SEPT:

Franco and I moved into our own space. One word: liberating. Hence, this current spate of posts.

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OCT:

When summer ended, so did the Jersey gig. Days into yet another stretch of holing up and drawing, I got a call for a monthlong project in Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh, by the way, is an awesome town. In another lifetime in another universe, I would have loved it.)

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NOV/DEC:

Back in NYC, I closed out the year with another contract job in Manhattan. Because. Bookends.

***

Looking back now, I see there was one constant: experimentation.

Different ads and clients and cities and agencies and people—I wanted to try them all.

All throughout, I still wrote side projects for myself. Not in this space, because for a while I felt like everything I wanted to share didn’t belong here. They were meant to be short stories, maybe, or diary comics, or shitty tumblr posts or some other form I don’t really know yet.

I’ve grown more patient with them.

2015 made my writing goals much clearer. I’d share what they are but this space is much better in hindsight.

Because

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But I can speak in generalities.

I’ve found that to grow as a writer, you  have to grow as a human. That may include admitting things about yourself you may not like, purging a lot of things that are bad for you, and not being afraid of the changes you need to make to get to where you want to be. Just like anything in life, things may be crap for a while but time has a way of ironing things out.

I’ve found that just because you’re growing in a certain direction doesn’t mean the people you know are going to go with you. And that’s OK. Some people are right for us in spurts, not eternity.

In the same vein, pursuing your own path, especially one that doesn’t quite jibe with the status quo, can be quite lonely. It’s why surrounding yourself with awesome people isn’t just important—it’s pretty damn necessary. And because forging real bonds takes a lot of time and energy, we must be very cognizant of who we give that time and energy to.

Finally, #LIVINGTHEDREAM can change as you change. This time 10 years ago, I was a senior journalism major gearing up for a summer internship at a daily newspaper; was editing the college paper and would soon be running it by fall; and leaving it all behind by spring to live in Spain for a couple months. Shit. I was way cooler 10 years ago.

And that’s OK.

Because I didn’t know then what I know now.

That is, #LIVINGTHEDREAM may at times look a lot like wandering aimlessly, making questionable career moves, waking up in the middle of the night going: What the fuck am I doing? It’s talking to people about your dreams about writing and being flat out told: HA. So you want to be a writer? Not if you don’t write in a certain manner at this kind of place, slaving away every night and weekend FOR ALL OF ETERNITY you won’t!

In spite of it all, no, in the face of it all, you keep writing. Not just writing, mind you, but writing in the kind of way that excites you and sounds like you.

Because weirdly enough, this nonlinear path actually gets you much closer to #LIVINGTHEDREAM than the one that came with all the cool, fancy titles.

In my old writing life, I put my work with the capital W ahead of everything. That was necessary for that point in my life, but now… fuck. That. I’m convinced my best writing self comes from being the best human me.

Which means being in the city I love.

With the people I love.

To do the kind of writing I love.

It took a while to get here, but man am I glad I did.

Happy New Year, friends.

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New Year’s Eve, Party of Two

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I’ve had my share of extravagant New Year’s Eves.

But this year was the craziest one yet.

There was booze and wild dance moves and fisticuffs and A ROUSING GAME OF SCRABBLE.

OK fine.

Franco and I stayed in because we’re old and that’s what old people do.

And you know what? It was awesome.

All you Olds out there know what I’m talkin’ about. As for you Youths, stay wild. Wear warm undies.

IMG_0877Franco wanted to try out the new cocktail toolset his brother and sister-in-law got us for Christmas. We got the table ready for some serious mixing.

IMG_0886Our go-tos:

IMG_0887IMG_0890IMG_0894IMG_0895IMG_0898IMG_0900IMG_0902IMG_0910Dirrrrrrty martinis!

IMG_0917IMG_0918IMG_0919IMG_0923IMG_0932And Manhattans.
Dental toothpicks included.

IMG_0945For dinner, we made another go-to:

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FANCY PASTA FROM A BOX!

IMG_0960IMG_0967IMG_0970IMG_0976IMG_0979With sauce fresh from the jar straight to our mouths.

IMG_0982Let’s get the party started, shall we?
By the way, why yes that’s an airbed in our living room. We had guests a couple weeks back and kind of just never put it away. Because, AMAZING.

IMG_0987Cracked open the Scrabble set also gifted by Franco’s brother and sister-and-law. It’s like they know us really well or something.

IMG_0995Though we’d played with Scrabble sets as kids, we’d never played a real game before. Shocker, I know.

IMG_1006Modeling our new toy, totally aware of just how fucking cutthroat we, er, I would soon become.

IMG_1013With tunes from the record player I got Franco for Christmas. My dad, by the way, was in awe of this thing. When Franco unwrapped it on Christmas, my dad went from shock (“They still make those?”) to skepticism (“That won’t work!”) to straight up kneeling on the floor to take out the manual from the box before Franco could even get to it. His verdict? “Sounds better than the one I had.”

IMG_1020Round Two.

IMG_1022IMG_1030Don’t let this calm scene fool you. At one point we had to stop the game after I lost my shit when Franco used the tiles I was gunning for. He said something about “You’re too competitive why can’t we just play a fun game of Scrabble wah wah wah.” Rude.

IMG_1034IMG_1046Times Square countdown times.

IMG_1051HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Franco ended up winning 299 to 247.
Then he won 267 to 237.
After we both studied some two-letter words he again won 312 to 280.
Yes, we’re obsessed. And yes, I’m pissed. One day I’ll prevail.

IMG_1053IMG_1058Lauryn Hill sounds great as ever on vinyl. The only lame part is this version doesn’t have the hidden tracks. I mean, that was only like 90% of why we got it but whatever. Still good.

IMG_1061IMG_1062Texting loved ones is soooo hard.

IMG_1066The aftermath.

Pork Chops on Christmas

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Christmas came and went.

We ate deep-fried greasy everything and saw just how far we could sink into our respective couches. We stared or didn’t stare at the TV. At dinner we sat around the table fact-checking each other’s know-it-all claims about something or other, each refusing to give in because we were all equally right.

Then it happened.

It began just as any of my dad’s depressing-to-us-but-normal-to-him-tales typically do—out of context.

Just what we were laughing and chatting about I can’t remember. A mispronounced word perhaps? An errant booger?

Whatever it was, it went a little something like this:

Me: Pork chops, am I right? Man, do I love me some pork chops!

Dad: Speaking of pork chops… it was 1992, and it was time to enroll you three into your first American school.

[My sister, brother and I exchanged knowing looks, “Here he goes again.” Franco, an experienced awkward-moment provocateur, perked up.]

Dad: We’d arrived in the US just months before. Your mom and I decided to take you to a private Catholic school a couple blocks from our apartment. I remember talking to you in the principal’s office in Tagalog, and the lady at the front desk—

Older Sister: She was mean!

Me: What did she look like again?

Older Sister: A mean old lady!

Dad: She snapped at us and said, “We speak English here.”

[This led to my parents telling us to speak English at home so we could get rid of our accents as well as minimize the inevitable discrimination we’d experience elsewhere. This also led to us losing fluency in our native tongue… whoops.]

Me: I remember leaning on her desk as a little 8-year-old, 3-foot-nothing, and she said, “Before I begin, how about no elbows on my desk?” And I was like, bitch please….

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[Author’s note: That may or may not have happened.]

Dad: All the immigrants they’d previously admitted had trouble catching up and had to take remedial courses. The school even suggested we enroll you in public school instead. Imagine that, public school!

[Lest you think my dad was some kind of elitist snoot, remember that this was early ’90s NYC in Da Boogie Down Bronx. We eventually made friends with people who did go to public school, but they were noticeably less, um, geeky and lame than we were. In short, we totes would have gotten our faces punched.]

Dad: I was like, Nah, homies. I want them to go to school here. The school said, “They should take ESL (English As a Second Language) classes first.” They were held in these trailers parked in front of the school.

I told them you all could speak English! So you took a test to prove it. Then, when you passed, they came to me with another problem: “They’re older than the kids in their grade! They need to be in their proper age group, but I don’t think they’re ready for that.” So I told them, “Well, I suppose they could take summer school if they end up struggling.” The school begrudgingly let you three take an assessment quiz.

Older Sister: I remember it being really simple. They asked us to spell words like “cat” and “dog.”

Me: Meanwhile, in the Philippines, I was already spelling four-syllable words.

[Author’s Note: bowdown.gif]

Dad: Of course this was all reflected in your test scores, but the school came back and said, “We have another problem.”

“What now?” I said.

“Well,” they said, “it seems they’re actually quite advanced for their grade level. Would you  mind if they skipped a grade?”

“Wonderful,” I said. Then I thought, “What about letting them skip two grade levels?”

“Mr. Bolipata,” they said. “Now you’re pushing it.”

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***

Epilogue:

My mom, wanting to show up our doubters, incentivized us by promising to shower us with presents should we get first honors. This method proved way too effective—we asked for TVs, our first desktop computer and dial-up internet, a dedicated phone line, film cameras, video cameras, books. My mom soon dreaded report-card season, while the nerd monsters she’d created grew into even bigger nerd monsters.

Angela Chase Is My Homie

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I’m always in my head.

Whenever something big happens, I imagine Future Me reflecting on that very moment years later in full-on Angela Chase mode, narrating every furrow of the brow, out loud and angst-filled—all while I’m living it.

That’s what happens when you grow up on The Wonder Years. And Blossom. And Clarissa Explains It All. And, the great overthinker’s bible, My So-Called Life.

It also does a couple things to a young person’s underdeveloped brain:

One, you decide talking to yourself, out loud and often, is acceptable.

Two, overanalyzing becomes your default way of thinking.

And three, you kind of miss out on some things.

You preoccupy yourself with trying to figure out what everything means before it even has a chance to become anything.

You even set some ground rules.

Big moments, you decide, come with symbolic tchotchke like streamers and cake to let oblivious you know that THIS IS A BIG DEAL, IDIOT, PAY ATTENTION.

Little moments, meanwhile, have an easier time slipping by unnoticed.

In most cases, it’s fine. I mean, they’re usually boring and lame and why waste brain space on what kind of pants your neighbor was wearing this morning unless he was wearing, like, MC Hammer pants, because, AMAZING.

What complicates things is when big moments disguise themselves as little moments, only to reveal their true selves long after they’ve passed.

I’ve tried to remedy this by always carrying a camera or a notebook and pen. It helps me relive everything, over and over, the good and the bad, with the benefit of hindsight that I use to craft neat narratives in order to make me sound much wiser and well-adjusted than I actually am.

Those otherwise inconsequential MC Hammer pants? Now they’re a symbol of my lost youth and spontaneity and inability to say, “Fuck You, slacks. I’m wearing MC Hammer pants to work today.”

But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a transition rears its ugly head.

Neither big nor small, transitions are merely preludes to either.

Nowhere are transitions more apparent than in New York, where your favorite noodle joints, jobs, and friendships dissipate overnight, sometimes without saying bye. The city conditions us not only to accept it all with a stiff upper lip but also to expect them.

It’s why when the rare transition that you recognize as a transition passes by, in its really fucking beautiful kind of way,

you go outside

and take a picture.

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